The debate over the “New Bus For London” rumbles on: the Guardian’s Dave Hill shed a little more light on the subject last week as he teased answers out of TfL’s Peter Hendy (and I am, as always, grateful for the name check). But the whole concept flies in the face of economic reality – which has been established over the last half century.
For starters, the seating capacity of the BorisBus, as it is now known, is poor when compared with other currently available vehicles: it will seat 40 upstairs, the same as the “long” Routemaster, despite being far longer. That’s the penalty of having two sets of stairs. Downstairs is far worse: just 22 seats will be available, and the combined total of 62 is two less than the original “short” RM.
Added to this will be the cost of a second crew member. Hendy states that this person won’t be a conductor (so will not handle cash). Neither will they be a PCSO, as the cost would be prohibitive. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that this role will be limited to supervising the rear platform entrance, which will be left open when that second person is present.
But that rear platform also takes away potential seating capacity, hence the miserably low 62 seat figure. A vehicle of that length anywhere else in the bus industry does not need two sets of stairs, nor a third entrance. So the idea that other operators will be rushing to order the BorisBus is pure fantasy.
Which brings me back to the vehicle’s size. TfL have insisted that my figure of 13.7 metres is wrong, but economic reality dictates that having a vehicle sufficiently long to get in more seats is the only way to justify two sets of stairs and three entrances. The longer vehicle would seat 52 upstairs and 34 down – a far better people mover, and remember, there is a precedent with the “Lion” double deckers in Berlin.
The problem with a bus of that length, as I noted previously, is that it would have a less than capital wide route availability. But at least it would not be a mobile economic basket case, provided the plainly daft “rear platform” idea is ditched.
Would cities around the world queue up to buy it? Well, the longer vehicle would at least have a chance, but you don’t have to do much travelling around mainland Europe to know that the market for people movers is either for trams, or for longer single deck buses.
Those would be bendy buses, of course. Everybody’s out of step bar our Boris.